It seems appropriate to do as I'm doing now, and merely assemble some links regarding what one of them calls "appropriative writing", and some oulipian stuff, most of them having only lately been found by me because, looking in my Oulipo Compendium for the entry that I could have sworn was called "Poetry Amidst the Prose" and being unable to find it because it's actually (and more accurately) called "Blank Verse Amidst the Prose", I went searching online for mentions of Oulipo, poetry, prose, and Fitzgerald. So here is a history of appropriative writing which has inspired me to wonder why I can't find Ashbery's "To a Waterfowl" online and instructed me that Bryant wrote something other than "Thanatopsis", but his "The Dong with the Luminous Nose" is online; Marjorie Perloff on Bök's Eunoia and someone else; Lethem on plagiary, in which one learns the origin of the name of the first Nurse With Wound album and what Burroughs' cut-up method actually is, which one hadn't known before. Previously I had thought I might actually, you know, write some stuff about this, and mention offhandedly Aby Warburg and "The Metamorphosis of Plants", but perhaps it will not be. I will, however, quote some stuff from the Oulipo Compendium, which is really delightful and makes one wish one knew French, starting with the bit of blank verse I was looking for. One reads first that
English-speaking amateurs used to complie poems using unintentional lines of iambic pentameter in the writings of Dickens; more recently, John Updike has concocted a poem consisting of extracts from Samuel Johnson's notebooks. In Lipo, Jean Queval, noticing the frequency of alexandrines in the prose of Victor Hugo, similarly combined them into rhyming poems.
An abundance of blank-verse lines in English prose usually indicates an incursion of solemnity of melancholy. The following example is assembled from F. Scott Fitzgerald's account of returning to a "lost" Paris, a story called Babylon Revisited.
And, if one doesn't pause to wonder if Paul Saint-Amour knew that about Dickens, one will rush headlong into this metered verse:
He saw, when he arrived at the apartment,
That Marion had accepted the inevitable.
"We haven't had a doctor for a year."
The room was comfortably American.
"I've got a vile hangover for the moment.
"I wish you and I could be on better terms."
"I should think you'd have had enough of bars."
"I want toget to know you," he said gravely.
But that was the beginning of the end.
And Marion, who had seen with her own eyes
The things that he would now always remember,
The men who locked their wives out in the snow,
Wanted his child, and nothing was much good now.
Has Marion said anything definite?
"My husband couldn't come this year," she said,
"As soon as I can get a governess—"
And everything was gone, and he was gone.
"What about coming back and sitting down?"
"Can't do it." He was glad for an excuse:
"We're going to see the vaudeville at the Empire."
We were a sort of royalty, almost infallible
("Daddy, I want to come and live with you!")
But she was in a swing in a white dress,
And swinging faster and faster all the time,
And kissed her fingers out into the night.
The entry cross-references cento, which cross-references it, as is, of course, right and proper. It's not (I admit) as good as I remembered it. I should also like to copy out this description of Bibliotheque Oulipienne 78:
Jacques Jouet presents us with a new treatment of the famous "sealed room" problem dear to Gaston Leroux and Edgar Allan Poe. A murder has been committed. A body is discovered in a room with no possible means of entry except through a door, which is locked from the inside. How did the murderer enter, or, if he was already inside, how did he leave?
The murder in this case has happened in London, but two French detectives, Dupin and Déjeux, are summoned to solve the case. There are six important elements which may have contributed to the victim's death: a piece of ebony, a tar stain on his leg, a lump of pasta, a photograph of a monkey, a stick-on badge and a bird with a blood-stained beak. The two detectives soon work out that all of them played a part in the murder and that the murderer is a constraint, the sestina. The careful reader wil lindeed notice that the six elements are mentioned six times in varying orders, following the sequence of end-words in a sestina.
But who was the victim? Our detectives are able to identify him thanks to the N+7 method. He is a macchabée (a slang word for a corpse). The wood is a piece of macassar (a sort of ebony), the pasta is macaroni, the badge is a macaroon, the bird a macareux (puffin), the monkey a macaque, and the lump of tar macadam. These are the six nouns in the Robert dictionary which separate macchabée from mac (pimp). The victim, then, is non other than the infamous MacHeath from The Beggar's Opera.